China – August/September 2017

Day 9 in China – The epicentre of Shanghai (Pudong International Airport)

After staying awake for nearly 24 hours, we returned to Bristol last night to find the weather pretty cold in comparison to the 34 degree heat that we experienced the day before!

Anyway, it was another 6am start (I was getting rather used it it!) as we headed to Shanghai international airport (Pudong technically) with our guide yet again.

If you are planning to visit China especially with a wheelchair, I would recommend getting a guide purely to act as a translator unless you can speak fluent Chinese! As predicted the whole airport experience went smoothly apart from security requesting that I stand up, when it was clear that I couldn’t and tried to put the wheelchair through the metal detector even though it was too wide, but I guess that is Chinese security for you.

Our 12 hour flight to London Heathrow (terminal 5B) went pretty quick, apart from the last hour or so and then guess what….we had to catch the rapid transit system again (along with all the cabin crew may I add!). However, there was a benefit of travelling with the cabin crew as they were able to allow us to skip the queue at immigration to make for a quick getaway from Heathrow.

Despite people’s preconception of China as a country it is one of the best country’s I have visited in terms of how accommodating people are especially to people like me, for example that guy in Xi’an who held up the restaurant menus for me whilst I read it and our guide in Beijing, China has almost no system set up to help disabled people, however it is clear that they are really trying to become an inclusive country, even if you have to hunt around for ages to find a ramp!!

Next year, I will be taking a cruse around Scandinavia in June visiting ; Bruges, Copenhagen (again!), Stockholm, Helsinki, St Petersburg, Tallinn and Gdansk in Poland. The plan aswell is to visit Lituainia and Belarus we will see where that goes 🙂

Day 8 in China – Shanghai Transportation system

The plan for today was to take a ride on the Shanghai Maglev which connects the City to the airport in under 8 minutes! In order to do this, we were required to go on the Shanghai Metro. Unlike Beijing, there is a website that tells you which stations are accessible and which are not which makes life easier as you don’t have to You Tube anything (not that you can anyway). The Maglev line is situated within an interchange of several Metro lines, however as Line 2 was closest to our hotel, that was the easiest for us. Do to the newish rolling stock on Line 2, the train was level with the platform making it easy to enter and exit.

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Day 7 in China – A tower (Shanghai Tower) and Yu Gardens

This morning was the first morning without waking up at stupid o’clock so after a slow start we headed to the spectacular Shanghai Tower, which is the tallest in China and second tallest in the world; that is until the Jeddah Tower is completed in 2020.. Another useless fact for you!

Anyway, when we arrived we were guided through the back entrances as there were escalators down to the entrance. This involved going the wrong way through security just to come back on ourselves! Apparently the elevator up to the observation deck is the fastest in the world reaching a top speed of 18 meters/sec (40 mph) which is pretty quick! Once we’d reached the top you can marvel at the Shanghai skyline including the Bund. Of course, as the tallest building on the skyline you are looking down onto the skyline! The observation deck is accessible however there are steps at one end of the circle so you have to come back to the ramp…

After being shown how to eat Shanghai steamed dumplings, difficult with chopsticks, a spoon and no fork, we headed to Yu Bazaar which is basically a mockup of an old Chinese village with lots of shops. Most of the shops were accessible however, as with most places we have visited in China, you have go hunting for the ramp access which takes a little while. In the centre of the bazaar lies the gardens which are original and have been preserved of course as it is a very old site, it is completely inaccessible to wheelchairs unless you want to bump up and down steps as I did!…

Tonight we go to see a Chinese acrobat show before attempting to navigate the Shanghai metro tomorrow in order to reach the maglev which travels at 431km/h and covers the 30 km to the international airport in under 8 minutes. 🏯🚝😄

Day 6 in China – Planes in Xi’an and towers in Shanghai

So here we are, our final destination, Shanghai after a 2 hour flight from Xi’an. We arrived at Xi’an airport in plenty of time (and I was excited by the dedicated airport expressway…how sad) and managed to check in without a problem with the help of Li, our guide translating on our behalf. The process was simple enough to get me and the wheelchair onto the plane, very similar to Bristol airport in that you have to visit the duty supervisor (special assistance) and then they take you in an airport wheelchair down to the gate and onto the plane whilst your own manual wheelchair goes in Oversized Baggage.

Chinese airports are so efficient compared to other countries that I have visited as around 5  minutes after the plane arrived there was an airport wheelchair waiting outside the door to take me back down to baggage reclaim. After reclaiming my wheelchair (which is surprisingly still in one piece) we were greeted by yet another tour guide called Susi, who took us to our hotel, winding our way through many towers…..

The magnificant photo that you see above is taken from my hotel room and guess  what….IT CONTAINS TOWERS!! Oh and I must add that the hotel bar in the lobby was playing the theme tune from Pirates of the Carribean which is kind of awesome!!

This evening we visited the Bund, the iconic riverfront of Shanghai with its magnificent displays of lights!

It also seems that the Chinese like take wedding photos next to the Bund and random roads with traffic… Don’t quite know what that is about but hey! I guess it’s better than standing in the middle of field taking photos of a cow.

The plan for tomorrow is to go up the Shanghai Tower (which is the second tallest building in the world….fun fact for you) for lunch followed by a trip to the theatres to see the Chinese Acrobatics Show 😄

Day 5 in China – The Big Wild Goose pagoda and the Terracotta Warriors

Today we visited the BIg Wild Goose pagoda and the Terracotta Warriors both of which are pretty accessible however they require some prior planning unless you are fluent in Mandarin otherwise you could end up going round in circles!

The majestic Big Wild Goose pagoda stands 7 storeys high and has a lean to it but not as much as Piza! As you walk around the monastery you can visit the Buddha and the various other buildings and halls. In order to get in, our guide flagged down one of the entrance staff to open a large gate to allow me entrance. At first we decided to bounce my chair up the steps at the base of the pagoda, however we soon realised that there is an accessible ramp hiding on the right side of the pagoda, near the cemetery, to take you up to the majestic site.

As we travelled through Xi’an, I took a look at the general accessibility of the shops and it’s interesting because many of the local shops are level access as opposed to some of the major chainstores which are not. Although, we didn’t catch the subway in Xi’an, when I did my prior research I noticed that some of the subway stations are accessible and the trains themselves are almost level with the platform.

After a quick visit to a Terracotta factory and craft centre, with level access, we headed out the Terracotta Warriors in Lintang. As I said, it would probably take a lot of prior planning to find the proper accessible routes are as if you follow the wheelchair signs you still end up with steps. The are three pits within which he Warriors were discovered with pit 1 being the largest with 6000 Warriors…

It seems that you can only access the top viewing platform as there are steps down to the sides but we just bounced me down yet again!! Pits 2 and 3 are completely accessible as is the chariot museum but make sure you press the right floor in the museum in the it as everything is on -1 rather than 2 as we initially thought. Pit 3 is yet to be excavated which is why the photo below looks very bland.

It’s another early start tomorrow; 4 days in a row! We travel to Xi’an airport to catch a 2 hour internal flight to our final city of Shanghai. Let’s see how good Chinese airports are for wheelchair users!😀

 

Day 4 – The Bullet Train and unfinished construction projects

It was another early start (up at 0600) to head to the Beijing West train station to catch the Bullet Train to Xi’an. On entrance to the station you are required to go through security showing your passport and ticket but other than that it was a simple process similar to the one in the UK. We had to go to the station master desk with the ticket 30 minutes before train departure so they can take you down to the platform. The bullet train itself is almost level to the platform making it easy to board. We were in first class so I didn’t get chance to see if there was a wheelchair space, however you could probably just sit in a door if not.

As we headed into the countryside out of Beijing the one thing that struck me was the amount of unfinished construction projects there were; roads that led to no where and apartments that were just a shell. It shows that China is trying to grow but maybe too fast.

We arrived at Xi’an North station and were met by our guide who took us to yet another posh hotel within the walled downtown district. I must say about dinner too… We were met by Henry, a management trainee, who seemed to know exactly what to do with me, for example holding the menu in front of me while I read it and then cleared the space in front to lay it down while I considered it. It’s strange how China does not support families with disabled children yet everyone I’ve met so far has been understanding.

Tomorrow we head to the Terracotta Warriors followed by a visit to a Chinese Mosque.

Day 3 in China – Massive wall (The Great Wall of China) and The Temple of Heaven

The plan for today was to visit the historical icons of China; The Great Wall and The Temple of Heaven. One of the main things that I wanted to look at more during the day was how accessible both sites were as a result of the Paralympic Games.

Anyway, our guide and driver picked us up for our hotel around 0815 and we son exited the hustle and bustle of Beijing and travelled into the mountains northof the city where the Great Wall runs through and stretches for 7800km. At Badaling there is a wheelchair accessible part however, before exploring this, we decided that in order to get an authentic feel we would take the steps bouncing my wheelchair backwards up the steps until we got to this point…

Above this point the gradient of the paving stones was steep so we decided to retreat back down and find the accessible route that I had researched prior which is the opposite side of the road to the ticket office.

There are two ways of reaching the accessible part of the wall, you can either walk up a ramped access or take one of two lifts. For the lifts you need to let them know your coming so they can gain the keys. As a result we went up the ramped access…

The ramps allow you to access a reasonably flat fortification with good views of the wall and surrounding countryside. You can also enter one of the Wall’s accommodation towers, however there is a little step up to that.

After lunch, we headed back to Beijing via the old road to visit The Temple of Heaven in all its glory…

Accessibility wise, there are ramps located all around the site making most of it wheelchair friendly, however, I don’t quite know who came up with this ramp concept…

Albeit quite scary, we managed to reach the top presenting an insight into The Temple of Heaven, it’s intricate external artwork of dragons and Phoenix’ together with the lavish interior.

Overall, the city of Beijing is rather surprisingly wheelchair friendly compared to other countries in terms of the subway and generally getting about. However, you do take your life in your own hands when crossing roads as you have all sorts of vehicles coming towards you, behind you and at the side of you!!

Tomorrow we catch the train to Xian, it is no ordinary train, its a BULLET train! 😃

 

 

Day 2 – A trip on the Beijing subway network and the Olympic Tower

Today we took the Beijing subway with the vision of attending the majestic looking Olympic Park where the 2008 Olympics and Paralympics were held.

As I said yesterday, I did some prior research finding out what stations are accessible or not. Normally a city would have some kind of accessible map which you can download but no not for Beijing! As a result it it took a couple of You Tube videos as well as zooming 500 % into several images. The line that we wanted to go on (Line 8) is of course the line going to the Olympic Park so it would is a kind of given that it’s accessible. As usual, the lift at Nanluogu Xiang station (which is the terminus of the line) was located down the side passage, I’m sure countries do it on purpose to lead you down dodgy passageways!

The station part for Line 8 was fully accessible plus the modern rolling stock meaning that there is only a little gap between the platform edge and the train similar to the Jubilee line on the London Underground. The trains themselves were spacious (like the new trains on the Circle, Hammersmith and City lines), the wheelchair space consists of a belt that you could pull down and wrap around a wheelchair to secure it during transit…..

We managed to exit the station at the Olympic Green station without a problem to be greeted by the magnificant sight of the Beijing Olympic Tower (which is 246.8 metres). However, the first aim was to walk to the iconic Birds Nest and Water Cube. It was pretty easy to find after exiting the station and climbing up a ramp…..

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The Olympic park is centred around a main boulevard of which the Beijing Olympic Tower, which was our second aim, is situated at the opposite end to the Birds Nest, so it was quite a walk to get to it, however they had a Chinese sounding Celine Dion soundtrack playing so you could have been in Disneyland!

The tower itself only cost £20 each which I thought was good value for money as there were several observation decks (all accessible) which you can visit plus a glass floor….

 

The plan for tomorrow is to a guided trip outside Beijing to visit The Great Wall of China😃

 

Day 1 and 1.5 in China – Planes, Beijing traffic and underpasses.

Well I would of started by saying Hello in Chinese but I don’t think the Chinese alphabet is on this iPad so Hello from Beijing will have to do! I have named this post after several things that have occurred since the last 36 hours and this is why…..

We started at, what I like to call the epicentre of the UK (London Heathrow) where the check in process worked well as usual (why can’t Bristol learn lessons from London…..they get on my nerves!). As we made our way towards the departure lounge as we were flying Business Class, after 2 hours of talking to some random Australians from Sydney (I learned that Australia has camels…fun fact). We made our way towards to the Gate which was situated in one of T5 satellite terminals, which can be accessed either by walking or by a Rapid Transit system, of course this made me ecstatic due to my love for all things trains! Basically, it comprises of a system similar to the DLR in London which is automated. As with the Heathrow Express, the train was level with the platform making it easy to get on and off . It was then time for our lovely 9 hour flight…..

We flew with BA in Business Class and, I don’t know if you know what it’s like but the best way to describe it is that your seats are in a little pod and basically you can turn it into a bed… quite a good idea for long haul flights!

On arrival in Beijing airport, I was amazed at the speed that I was able to get off the plane as the time it took for the baggage handlers to bring up my wheelchair….about 10 mins (sometimes we are waiting for 30 mins even at the biggest airports!).

Unfortunately my charm didn’t seem to work as we queued for security so that took a while until we were spotted by a young police lady on the 72 hour Barrier free line who beckoned us forward….what a nice person. this wasn’t the end of our terminal adventure because, as it turned out we landed at T3E and the exit was of course in the main Terminal leading to another Rapid Transport system ride….how exciting !

Its worth mentioning that I have to take my manual wheelchair because someone thought it would be a good idea to hide a bomb in an electric wheelchair leading to a ban on bringing them into China.

At Beijing airport we were met by the Trailfinders rep who escorted us through a mountain of traffic to reach to Peninsular Hotel, Beijing. Here are some photos of what greeted me in an accessible room.

As accessible rooms go it is the best I’ve stayed in yet with a good connecting room (I thought the wet room at the Hilton Doubletree Heathrow was impressive but this is way better). They actually have a proper shower chair.

The room itself is entirely controlled by touch screens from the lights to opening and closing the curtains! There is plenty of room to manoeuvre a wheelchair.

After a brief nap we spent the rest of the afternoon out and about around the Forbidden Palace, Tiannamen Square and the rest of downtown. As usual I’d done a bit of prior research and noted that, as a result of the 2008 Paralympics, the access of the city has dramatically improved and it’s good to see when we visited the Forbidden Palace …

Saying that, on our way back to the hotel we had to cross a 6 lane road with no accessible crossings apart from at Tinnamen Square. It was fine going down a ramp to the underpass but the other side was significantly steeper and resorted to an aided walk up the steps with mum and a helpful Chinese cyclist pushing the wheelchair up the ramp. I guess the lesson learnt was to ensure you get on the right side early enough before you head out of town!

On our return to the hotel we we’re greeted with this lovely cake and champagne as it was my 25th birthday yesterday, don’t know who it is from yet but we have a suspicion! (Actually we just found out that Damian at Trailfinders dropped some hints to the hotel)

The plan for tomorrow is to go to the Olympic park whilst attempting to navigate the accessible metro stations (which I’ve planned by watching a few you tube videos of the guys that have an obsession with elevators!). The park also has a few observation decks up a tower which should be thrilling.

Finally, I have found out that Twitter and Instagram can’t be accessed here but Facebook can so I will upload all the photos onto Twitter when I get back. 😄

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